Ride Captain Ride
Vocals: Page (lead), Mike, Trey (backing)
Original Artist: Blues Image
Original Album: Open (1970)
Historian: Ellis Godard
An ongoing rarity with an elusive name, “Ride Captain Ride” (also recorded by Blood Sweat & Tears and Jim Devlin) is a perennial fan favorite. Its first four appearances marked important turns in Phish’s voyage, calling fans “to ride along to another shore... and be free once more”. But with only ten so far, it's a rare ride indeed.
The song boarded Phish’s repertoire during one of the early Nectar’s gigs on 3/23/87, segueing neatly into the similarly elusive “Dave’s Energy Guide.” It embarked again eighteen months later (9/13/88, which featured two “Energy Guides” and the first vacuum solo) as the band outgrew Sam’s Tavern and prepared for its first expansive Northeast tour. Its third sighting – and the one most known to fans – came during the exploratory Ian’s Farm show (5/28/89), and its fourth (4/14/90) during the band’s second jaunt to Colorado.
From there, this history becomes somewhat personal. In late 1992, I sent Page a letter espousing the strengths of the tune. Originally recorded by Blues Image, who took it to number four on the charts in 1970, “Ride Captain Ride” is an upbeat blues number about departure towards joy. Penned by Mike Pinera, who also played with Iron Butterfly and penned “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” it captures what I then saw as the spirit of Phish, with (taboot) a bluesy bridge for Trey’s guitar and some exuberant twists for Page’s voice. Perhaps I was persuasive, as the tune was performed twice in the next month – opening the encores of 12/12/92 and 12/30/92 – but I was too busy with school, and missed both. Over the next six years, I became a bit bitter as I hoped for a comeback but not one came at all. And I felt teased by the song’s reemergence 8/3/98, 11/8/98, and 12/10/99, all of which I also missed.
"Ride Captain Ride" 11/8/98 Chicago, IL
The tune seemed to have sailed off into history. For over a decade, with any lull on stage, any moment of indecision amongst band members about what to play next, I held out a bit of hope that I’d finally catch my mystery ship. And it has indeed sailed recently - on the 10/24/10 bustout. I, of course, was not aboard.
"Ride Captain Ride" 10/24/10 Amherst, MA